Climate Change: An Evident Dilemma

Rubab Nazar, Green Blogger
Climate Change has always been challenged for its scientific significance. It is often compared with general weather disturbances but climate change is a separate phenomenon. No doubt in past there were episodes of climate changes when earth’s temperature became extreme hot and cold periodically, but that were due to natural drivers. Now, we have entered into a new climatic dilemma where there is war between nature and human. Currently, climate change is certainly because of anthropogenic drivers and it needs to be accepted scientifically and socially. Every nation must learn that climate change is real and keeps sound evidences on it. 
Climate Change is a large scale and long term change in earth’s climatic system produced by global warming. On the record, earth’s temperature has fluctuated notably for many years. Earth’s previous temperature was -19°C, CO2 and water vapors formed cover around the earth and it became 15°C. Until then it was total rise of 34°C rise in temperature due to ‘natural’ global warming. Post-Industrial activities and fossil fuel burning gave it name of “Anthropogenic Climate Change” when earth’s temperature increased by 0.8°C and it became 15.82°C finally. 
Paris Agreement 2015(COP21) has gained historical importance as it aims to neutralize earth’s average temperature at certain limit. This agreement proposes to keep global temperature rise this century well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit temperate increase even further to 1.5°C. It is a challenge for whole world to maintain earth’s temperature to this limit in the next 80 years of this century we are left with. Scientific research shows that CO2 emissions by fossil fuel and land use will increase continuously and then decline in order to achieve an atmospheric CO2 concentration stable at 550 µl/lˉ¹ by the year 2150. 
Climate change appears as a drastic event when reduction in ice mass of arctic(North) and Antarctica(South) is measured. According to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) report, in 2002-2016 ice loss of Greenland(arctic) is 3748 GigaTon/year (2016) and average mass loss is 281 GigaTon/year, while of Antarctica is 3748 GTon/year (2016) and average mass loss is 125 GTon/year. Since 1979, 11.5% reduction occurred in arctic ice mass and in past 7 years Greenland lost 1800 GTon ice mass. Other dark side of picture is about the division of developed and developing countries and at south there lies majority of developing countries. So, is it a crime to be a developing country like Pakistan? Average ice loss is maximum at South where economy and people are suffering while countries at North are the contributors. Developed countries in the pre-industrial era had already exploited coal and used much fossil fuel and that effect is now appearing on developing countries whose contribution is minimum. In 1995, developed countries made 73% contribution of CO2 emissions and developing countries had contribution of 27%. International Energy Agency(IEA) report suggests that in 2035 there will be 50% contribution by developed and 50% contribution by developing countries. 
There are various sectors which trigger overall Anthropogenic Climate Change. CO2 contribution by fossil fuel burning is 75%, industry contributes 22%, transport 12%, agriculture 9%, aviation industry 2% and fluorinated gases 1%.  Globally 36 billion tons of CO2 per year is emitted and it continues to increase. Deforestation is another leading cause of global warming when enough CO2 is not sequestered and is released into the atmosphere. China accounts for more than one quarter of emissions. In 2018, China contributed 27% of world’s emissions, USA 15%, European Union 9%, India 7%, Russia 5%, Japan 3%, while Iran, Saudi Arabia and Canada collectively contributed 2%. At present emissions of USA are constant while China and India keep on increasing. USA has 26% of world’s oil consumption, China consumes 6%, Saudi Arabia 1.7% and Russia 3.3%.
Climate change proves to be more alarming for developing countries as they are more vulnerable. Socio-economic conditions of a country determine its vulnerability to a certain exposure. Countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Mongolia which lies on equator are suffering immensely by climate change in different ways. Glaciers are a source of albedo and reflection of rays occurs more than their absorbance. Globally sea level has risen 7 inches, also due to thermal expansion. If all Arctic and Antarctica ice mass loss, there will be 7m and 75m rise in sea level respectively. In Pakistan, glaciers are melting in northern areas and it does not have enough funding to build dams as a solution. In 2010 Pakistan faced a loss of 43 billion dollars due to floods in KPK, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan regions which affected the Indus River Basin. Drought occur as consequence of climate change and saline groundwater as a replacement causes salinity. This saline water should be treated with CO2 for usage but Pakistan do not have enough advancement for such treatment. Drought, blight and flood affect the agricultural capacity of Pakistan where agriculture contributes 24% of its GDP. Climate change also affects southern states of USA and agricultural yield has decreased. Due to climate change susceptibility to epidemic diseases increases but Pakistan does not have strong economy to deal with epidemics and other waterborne diseases. Since 1950, extreme weather and climate conditions occur and heat waves happen in summer. Now, Pakistan’s climatic conditions do not remain same every year as the extremity and duration of seasons vary. Due to heavy rain land sliding occurs and this leads to flash flooding. In 2013 Pakistan and parts of eastern Afghanistan experienced unusual heavy rainfall that caused widespread flash flooding. Due to this flood, Pakistan faced a loss of 1.9 billion dollars. 
Tornadoes, hurricanes and ocean acidification are other global effects of climate change. Hurricane Dorian and Hurricane Katrina in USA caused a vast property damage. Ocean acidification occurs when excess CO2 from atmosphere react with water to form carbonic acid and pH decreases. Oceans get warm as they absorb three times more CO2 than atmosphere, 75% and 25% respectively. Also, in last 30 years 50% of world’s coral reef has lost. According to NOVA, a rise of 35°C in earth’s temperature will occur if all coral reefs get depleted. 29% of Great Barrier Reef (Australia, USA) died in 2016. To reverse coral reef depletion, we need to stop ocean acidification as CO2 has the ability to trap heat. 
Pakistan’s contribution to world’s greenhouse gas(GHG) emissions is less than 1%, it is only 0.8%. Pakistan ranks 137th country on global emissions yet it stands as 7th most affected country by climate change. Pakistan has 10 times less emissions than developed countries and still faces 10 times more effects than developed countries. Forest area must cover 25% of a country’s total land area but in Pakistan forest area covers only 1.9% of total area. It means Pakistan has lost large area of C-sinks. Urbanization and unavailability of Natural Gas in Northern Areas are the two main factors behind deforestation in Pakistan. From 1972 to 2009, the urban area of Lahore expanded 68 percent while a loss of 32500 hectares in agricultural land is recorded. Around 500 hectares of forest land had vanished from the landscape of the city. At present more than 1200 hectares of agricultural and forest land is acquired for urban uses every year. More than 200 new housing schemes are approved to accommodate the ever increasing population. It is estimated that this population sector has swallowed around 250 villages since 1972 to onwards. Resultantly, deforestation and excessive fuel burning in Lahore has deteriorated its air quality index and air pollution is dominant.
Every country should try to constitute its energy mix mainly on renewable resources rather than burning fossil fuel so that 75% contribution of this anthropogenic driver can be minimized. Current requirement is not to completely shut down the use of fossil fuel as it’s a gradual shift, but a country must struggle to make more reliance on renewable resources. Approaches like Cleaner Production, Life Cycle Assessment and Building Efficiency must be adopted by the industrial sector. Every developed country and even little contributor need to get vigilant about climate change adaptation and mitigation. Adaptation measures include policy measures, technological measures, monitoring and forecasting, risk sharing and climate responsive change in location, activity and use. While mitigation options include forestry, reduction of emission from livestock management and land use change, sequestration in soils and biomass, and reduction of direct (agricultural machinery, pumps) and indirect (synthetic fertilizers) energy related emissions.

Unfortunately, in Pakistan environmental prejudices are not hailed to the extent they must be. Pakistan Climate Change Act was passed in 2017, but there is no effective implementation by Federal Ministry of Climate Change. If we add sections about Climate Change in provincial legislation, it will get more practical worth. Actually, there lies fault in Environmental Governance of Pakistan where even Provincial Environmental Protection Acts have many short comings. In the long run, every person in any country should consider his ‘carbon footprint’ and should seek for the ways to keep it minimized.
About the Author: Rubab Nazar, a student of B.Sc(Hons) Environmental Science at GC University, Lahore. She is keen about writing for environment and climate change.

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